The Environment Bill – What is Expected?
The Queen’s Speech 2021 reaffirmed that the Environment Bill will be at the centre of this year’s policymaking and committed to ensuring that the UK is cleaner, greener and more resilient for future generations. Property developers, waste management companies, local authorities, water companies and highway authorities will be particularly interested in the changes.
What are the key features?
The Bill includes various environmental protection measures, including a focus on:
— Air Quality – local authorities must ensure they comply with the “Local Air Quality Management Framework” to ensure that the air in their locality is not in breach of the framework. This reflects the recent Coroner’s Court decision about local air pollution and asthma. We anticipate more roads having their speed limits reduced due to the road users impact on local housing.
— Water – there will be duties on water undertakers in relation to water resources management plans and drought plans. Undertakers will have to ensure that the management and development of water resources meet current and future demands. This will help to prevent a combination of sewage and rain from overloading drains. This was a particular issue following recent storms. However, campaigners who use the River Wharf at Ilkley for swimming or kayaking will still have to contend with sewage in the river until 2030.
— Nature and Biodiversity – when submitting a planning permission plan, a “biodiversity gain plan” must be submitted and approved before development can commence. Public authorities must have regard for the conservation of biodiversity. Local land charges are to be created where there has been illegal felling of trees and a new duty on local highway authorities in England to consult the public before felling street trees.
— Resource efficiency and waste management – this allows the Government to extend producer responsibility obligations to require manufacturers and others to pay the full net cost of managing their products at the end of life. It is hoped that this will incentivise producers to design a product keeping sustainability in mind. Producer responsibility obligations will also include prevention of waste and redistribution.
The Bill also includes the creation of the Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) to act as a new environmental standards regulator in England, as well as clarifying responsibilities of the OEP and the Committee on Climate Change to ensure there is no duplication of work. The interim OEP will be set up from July. This new body will keep tabs on the government’s progress towards its environmental targets and receive citizens’ complaints about the failures of public authorities.
When will it come into force?
The Environment Bill has now completed its Committee Stage and had day one (of two) of its Reports Stage in the House of Commons. Day two of the Report Stage is to take place on 26 May 2021.
What are the practical implications?
The Bill is critical to protect nature and the environment and clean up air quality. It should bring a significant reduction in harmful emissions and will benefit environmental, business and consumer-related, and public sector related companies.
Air pollution should reduce significantly and have immediate health and environmental benefits. The Bill will ensure that the UK is more resilient to drought, flooding and the risk of coastal erosion. The management of wastewater, groundwater and surface water will considerably help in providing clean water to millions of people. In addition to this, the Bill will ensure that new habitats are created every year and fewer habitations are lost.
The planned collaborative approach working across many Governmental bodies should build a sustainable environment. The OEP will monitor the success of the Environmental Bill and report annually. This will help the government consider any implications and re-evaluate where necessary.
Finally following the recent Committee stage, it has also been confirmed that the new environmental review process will be dealt with through the High Court rather than the Upper Tribunal.
Our highly experienced Regulatory team can help advise you on the potential implications of the Environment Bill and environmental issues generally. Please do get in touch.
This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org